Saturday, January 28, 2012

Invisibility or misinformation - which is worse?

The response to the long awaited decision on the BC Supreme reference case concerning the Canadian Polygamy Law was a bit of a disappointment.  The general media heaved a collective sigh of relief that status quo would be maintained and them thar Mormons would now be dealt with "properly".  Our elected legislators in Ottawa stood and applauded the decision in the House of Commons.  All is right with the world now and we can go back to not knowing or caring about some people in the interior of British Columbia.

Well...not quite.

The heretofore mostly silent majority of folks living in some form of multiple partnered relationship but NOT living in Bountiful were suddenly quite vocal on the matter.  Some were also initially sighing in relief that their situation, like mine, falls into the loop hole provided by Justice Bauman.  No ceremony - not illegal.  On the other hand, that also means we don't "count" as a long term committed relationship simply because we have no ceremony. (Common Law unions are certainly recognized and taxed as married by our federal government.) Those who have had a ceremony or some form of commitment event now wonder when the cops will be at the door to break up their homes.

Those who practice polygamy and fall under the Mormon group targetted by this law whether infact happily so or not - women and men -  are living in fear of being arrested and their children sleepless with an understanding that they may be ripped from their parents at any point.

The reality is that the judicial and family services systems do not have the resources to break up the homes of every family practicing multiple partner unions.  The focus on Bountiful is not even doable in terms of court resources, or foster homes for children and no one is going to pull up in a bus to take away all the children as was done in Texas.

What IS happening?  The BC AG has begun the process of selecting a special prosecutor to pursue charges and the process will be long, drawn out and difficult for all concerned.  Laying charges and gathering evidence when victims and witnesses are terrified of the fall out to their participation both in terms of legal ramifications and sanctions from superiors in their church, will continue to be a huge barrier.  Victims of abuse getting support and help will continue to be another barrier.  Changes to the family law under the Family Law Act just passed last fall have redefined "domestic violence" to include coersion and mental/emotional abuse and made violation of a restraining order punishable by 2 years in jail.  These and other changes via this new law will amend other related legistlation and are a good big step towards helping but will be 18 months or so to implement.  (Question: When the perpetrator of the abuse is also a current victim of abuse perpetrated by an authority figure outside of the home - who is charged?) 

Long term problems are not eradicated overnight.  Polyamorists and indeed all other people living in multiple partner homes struggle with the mud slung by the notion that this patriarchal polygamy gone wrong situation is not only the norm but the ONLY possible outcome.  We are invisible in the fog surrounding it. We are lost and while Newt Gingrich's press wasn't particularly positive imagery for polyamory, at least brings up the concept that there are other scenarios.

Occasionally we get lovely stories of happy families in the media - usually around Valentine's Day.  The general population does not appear to want to hear about loving families with multiple partnered adults.  They want to read about the nasty men with lots of women and kids who milk the welfare system and are just perverts.  Even when the story IS about happy folks, the comments in response convey the doubt that anyone with too much sex and love in their life is suspect.

(Personally, I think its sad that we have to see other people as miserable as we are ourselves or worse in order to feel better.  Life is an all you can eat buffet.  You choose to partake of what is available or you  dare to ask for a custom menu.  Too much sex or love or cheeseburgers is really a very personal assessment.  Too much for me might be nothing for you or far beyond your quota and tolerance.  That's the great thing about being human - we're different.   The mindset that "different" is wrong has got to go.)

We need to keep polyamory and the good stuff that we experience in the media.  Invisibility hurts us and feeds the hype that all multiple partnered relationships have bad outcomes.   We need to dare to keep asking for that custom menu and make it known that there are other happy functional options to monogamy.  Options that deserve recognition in the media and in law.